International students' healthcare and medical insurance in the US

Learn about the healthcare system in the US and the medical insurance options available to you as an international student.

In this article:

Why do you need health insurance while studying in the US?

The US has one of the best healthcare services in the world but it is also known to be quite costly. Getting even primary medical treatment is going to cost a lot of money. Universities have also made it mandatory for international students to have some form of health insurance.

What are the health insurance requirements for different types of student visas?

Certain US student visa types will require you to get certain types of medical insurance plans.

J1 visa: If you hold a J1 visa, you need to fulfil the health insurance requirements set by the US Department of State. They are:

  • Medical coverage for accidents and illnesses (minimum $100,000).
  • Coverage for emergency medical evacuation of the candidate to his/her home country ($50,000).
  • Coverage for returning the remains of the candidate to his/her home country in case of untimely death ($25,000).
  • Less than $500 of a deductible amount per treatment.
  • The health insurance provider must be rated A- or above from A.M. and Standard, and Poors Claims Paying Ability; A-1 or above in Insurance Solvency International rating; B+ or above in Weiss Research, Inc.

F1 and M1 visa: The healthcare requirements of those holding an F1 or an M1 visa are determined by universities as the US government does not have any set requirements.

What are the types of insurance plans available in the US?

The US doesn't offer a public healthcare plan for international students. You will have to get one of the following two types of insurance plans.

  • University offered health insurance 

Some universities offer group insurance plans for international students. The premiums for these will be added to your tuition fee.

  • Private health insurance

There are many private insurance providers that offer many international student health insurance packages.

Important terminologies to know before getting a student health insurance in the US

The following are common terms mentioned in any health insurance plan. Knowing them beforehand will make it easier for you to compare different health insurance packages.

  • Claim: This is a bill that your healthcare provider will submit to your insurance provider after your treatment to claim your medical expenses.
  • Premium: This is the amount you will pay each month to keep your insurance plan active.
  • Deductible: This is the fixed amount that will be deducted before the insurance provider pays for your medical expenses. 
  • Co-Insurance: This is the percentage of your medical expense that you will pay out of your pocket. For example, some medical insurance plans may ask you to pay 20% of your medical expense while the insurance provider will cover 80%.

Tips to keep in mind to get your health insurance right

  • Start your process early; don't delay. It is always safe to have active health insurance before starting your course. Try selecting a health insurance package and apply online before setting foot in the US.
  • Check your requirements. Based on your type of visa and course, you might have certain health insurance requirements that the US government or your university needs you to fulfil. Check these requirements and choose a health insurance plan that meets everything. 
  • Check the insurance plan’s eligibility requirements. Different insurance providers will have different eligibility requirements for different plans. Read up on these before signing up.
  • Get help to understand the legal agreements. You will be signing a legal document while getting health insurance. Read them carefully with someone who understands legal jargon before agreeing to them.
  • Before finalising a plan, try answering these questions and see if they fit your expectations.

Does your plan cover accidents, illnesses and emergencies?
Does your plan have restrictions on where you can get your medical treatments to be covered by the plan?
What medical treatments are included and excluded from coverage?